Antidepressants

Introduction

Antidepressants are psychiatric medication used to treat a wide range of mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety. While many antidepressants are available on prescription from your GP, some can only be prescribed to patients who are under the supervision of a mental health professional.

Antidepressants are designed to increase the activity of certain chemicals in the brain, such as noradrenaline and serotonin, which are neurotransmitters. They pass messages between the nerve cells in your brain, so controlling their actions will affect your mood.

Please note that while antidepressants can be an effective treatment for the symptoms of mental health conditions, they may not tackle the root causes of the problem. That’s why GPs will often recommend they are used in conjunction with talking therapy sessions with a psychiatrist.

It’s normal for patients to find that some antidepressants are more effective than others, while some people might find they are not the right treatment for them.

Mind Clinix depression test male doctor and patient
MindClinix Predictix test kit on a tablet with patient

Antidepressants

Introduction

Antidepressants are psychiatric medication used to treat a wide range of mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety. While many antidepressants are available on prescription from your GP, some can only be prescribed to patients who are under the supervision of a mental health professional.

Antidepressants are designed to increase the activity of certain chemicals in the brain, such as noradrenaline and serotonin, which are neurotransmitters. They pass messages between the nerve cells in your brain, so controlling their actions will affect your mood.

Please note that while antidepressants can be an effective treatment for the symptoms of mental health conditions, they may not tackle the root causes of the problem. That’s why GPs will often recommend they are used in conjunction with talking therapy sessions with a psychiatrist.

It’s normal for patients to find that some antidepressants are more effective than others, while some people might find they are not the right treatment for them.

Types of antidepressants

Types of antidepressants

There are a variety of antidepressants available; each one is designed to affect a particular brain function. They include the following:

  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): these prevent the enzyme monoamine oxidase breaking down noradrenaline and serotonin. MAOIs should only be prescribed by a specialist.
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): the UK’s most common antidepressant, they work by blocking the reabsorption of serotonin by nerve cells. This allows serotonin to have a longer effect on your body. 
  • Serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): these do a similar job to SSRIs, but also affect the reuptake of noradrenaline.
  • Tricyclics: these also target noradrenaline and serotonin levels, but also affect other chemicals in your body which can cause side effects.

Antidepressants and depression

With the right treatment and support, most people who suffer from depression can go on to make a full recovery. Typical treatments include lifestyle changes, therapy and medicine. 

Antidepressants are designed to make you feel more — not less — like yourself. It’s natural for patients to worry that medication might change who they are, but antidepressants should not change your personality. They are intended to make you feel like yourself, while removing feelings of depression or anxiety.

Antidepressants are designed to clear your head. They are not intended to numb the brain.

Research has shown that antidepressants are most effective for those suffering with moderate or severe depression. They are not typically prescribed to patients with mild depression, who are usually directed towards therapy sessions.

According to The Royal College of Psychiatrists, around 50 to 65% of people using antidepressants for depression will notice an improvement. This compares with 25 to 30% for those taking a placebo*. 

However, finding the right medication is not always straightforward as each individual reacts differently to antidepressants. Patients who do not notice an improvement after several months might be switched to a different antidepressant. 

Medical professionals usually start patients on a low dose of antidepressants, which can take several weeks to take effect. If patients suffer mild side effects, they should continue the medication as the symptoms should pass.

Patients who don’t notice any improvements within four weeks should speak to their GP or mental health professional. 

A full course of antidepressants will normally last six months, although those with recurring symptoms may need to take them indefinitely.

MindClinix Predictix test kit on desktop and tablet

Advice on antidepressants

If you are taking antidepressants, you should be in regular contact with your doctor or mental health professional, who is in the best position to judge the effect of your treatment. If your symptoms have improved, your doctor may decide that you are ready to come off the medication.

If you are unsure that your antidepressant medication is working, here are a few actions you can take:

  • Review your medication: stay in regular contact with your GP or mental health professional so that they can check on your progress, including any side effects.
  • Alternative treatments: discuss other options with your GP, such as different medication or therapy.
  • Get a second opinion: if you have serious concerns about your diagnosis or treatment, you have the right to ask your GP to refer you to another health professional.
  • Ask a pharmacist: if you would like more information on your medication and any side effects, you could try your high street pharmacist.
  • Be patient: some medications may take longer to start working, so ensure you take the full course prescribed before making a decision.

You should not stop taking the tablets immediately. You will be advised to reduce your dosage over several weeks, or even months. This is to prevent unwanted withdrawal symptoms.